Athletics: Thomas fired up for duel with Johnson

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The Independent Online
Iwan Thomas cannot wait to take on Michael Johnson. The 23-year- old has emerged as Britain's best chance of a men's track medal, after breaking Roger Black's 400 metres British record by 0.01sec with a run of 44.36sec when winning the selection trial two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Johnson, the Olympic double gold medallist, has been beset with injury problems recently and needed a wild-card entry to Athens after missing the American trials.

"You could say it would have been a bonus if he wasn't there," Thomas said. "But if I did win, then everybody would say it was only because the great man wasn't there. So I want to run against him, it is an honour to do so. At his best he is in a different league, but he's got two arms, two legs - and all I can do is my best.

"I've never said I'm going to win but I am the third fastest in the world this year and on paper must be one of the British favourites for gold. It's also four races in three days and that gives me an advantage because one of my qualities is my strength."

Britain's principal female hope is Kelly Holmes, who has a book to which she turns every night for inspiration: Running and Winning by Peter Coe, the father and coach of Sebastian.

She attended a seminar last December in Stockport, given by Peter Coe and rediscovered the enthusiasm she had lost after missing out on a medal in Atlanta last year. "I met Peter at an endurance weekend and his lecture was really inspiring," said Kelly, who shattered Zola Budd's UK 800m record with an impressive time of 1min 57.14sec earlier this month.

"I came out really buzzing and feeling I could be just like Seb. Seb achieved so much. If I achieved just half as much, I'd be chuffed. So that's why I read the book every night." Holmes will double up at 800m and 1500m, having recently recorded the fastest time in the world this year - 3:58.07 - at the longer event.

The International Amateur Athletic Federation said yesterday it would suspend Norway if it failed to report positive drugs tests on time. Norway incurred the IAAF's anger when it reported the name of an athlete, who tested positive for banned substances on 14 May, only in the last few days.